The Christmas season is a time when awards and end of the year honors are talked about. Whether it is the Golden Globes, Time’s Person of The Year or the Oscars this is the time of year when people suggest and nominate people for excellence or notoriety in the past year. Of course there is a set of nominations named at this time of year that are nominally more relevant to me than the Golden Globes, but for which I have as good a chance of winning as I do an Oscar – the ECNY Awards.
ECNY awards stand for “Excellence in Comedy, New York.” Now, I am unabashedly competitive. I have always been competitive – academically, athletically, even when walking down the street and I feel like someone is trying to pass me and walk faster. It is why I have repeatedly entered comedy contests to the point of possibly being insane;I hope and want to win (and win money). If I was less competitive I would probably be a happier person with my comedy career and wouldn’t go ballistic whenever read a Facebook update about someone booking clubs or shows that I have not/cannot.
That’s me. Asshole? Perhaps. But I admit who I am. One problem I have with comedy awards is that this business is so littered with “real people” who pretend to abhor awards and competitions. They are the folks who will strut around saying “awards have no place in comedy” and “competitions are stupid” and “how do you judge comedy with awards?” but then cannot wait to seek validation through giving and receiving these awards. Comedy is like the acting world, but with less transparency of people’s ambitions. The whole scene reminds me of the goth kids on South Park, who considered themselves too cool for mainstream and think that they are incredibly unique and uncompromising individuals, not realizing that they themselves had participated in forming their own group-think and cliche.
There is a parade of nominations that occur and I think a couple of people have nominated me for a few things, and I nominated my Brett Favre video (hey can 5,000 YouTube viewers be wrong? absolutely). But like TSA at airports, I believe the nomination process is cosmetic. Any comedian on Facebook in the NYC area should be able to predict who will be nominated for these awards. So with that said I will be re-naming some of the awards to reflect my predicted nominees. Of course, this is (mostly) not aimed at the nominees, but simply at the process, for which the dye is already cast, and at the people who would act above awards and pretend to be artists but because of industry carrots dangling before them, are unabashedly competitive. Your categories are:
Best Male Comedian – “Who has the most television appearances this year – Comedy Central Presents a Plus, Comix appearances also a plus.”
Best Female Comedian – see above
Best Host – “Who runs the shows most heavily promoted by Time Out NY”
Best Podcast – “All comics listen to Marc Maron, right? So how about him and 4 others. Did he already win? Fu*k.”
Best Sketch Video – “Have the people nominated last year done any new videos this year, because it would take too long to watch lots of videos from people we do not know.”
“Best Improv Group” – “Improv is painful most of the time, but to look all-encompassing as a comedy awards show here ya go”
Best Website – “What websites, regardless of design and innovation, are the best at promoting already established acts or acts with sufficient industry heat behind them, while never critiquing or offering substantive industry commentary or criticism beyond consensus beliefs for fear of risking their own access to events?”
Outstanding achievement in tweeting – “which hyper liberal with possible Comedy Central connections do we like?”
Emerging Comic – “If you are on Facebook enough and get enough invites to Time Out NY-favorite and Comix shows you will know at least 3 or 4 of the nominees (New York’s Funniest finalists from the contest preceding the NY Comedy Festival a definite plus.
Now of course, most of the people nominated will be talented and funny and I do not mean to disparage them. And I have no problem with awards shows. But the charade of a nomination process (sort of the on-line version of “open call” casting lines) coupled with the “awards are beneath comedy” hypocrisy make this sort of an offensive exercise. Do you really think dozens of podcasts are being reviewed for quality, humor and insight? Or that hundreds or maybe thousands of YouTube videos are being watched? It is not that seeing 5 talented comedians get nominated is a crime – no one will be upset with the eventual nominees. But the injustice is in promoting a charade as some egalitarian and official process, while I believe that if even one good comedian (let alone dozens) is not given equal recognition and consideration for his or her nominated work then the whole process is corrupt. But there is some industry presence at these awards, which combined with an outpouring of delusional submissions for nominees gives an air of legitimacy that is far bigger than it should be. I would have no problem with a committee picking all the nominees without an open process. But like Presidential and Congressional elections, the powers that be need the proletariat to engage in the process to give it legitimacy, while simultaneously undermining their own interests by participating.
But a sincere good luck to most of the eventual/already decided nominees – you all work hard at what you do and comedy is a great thing, even if the comedy business sucks. But if we can be honest about this: there is a new award category this year for the ECNYs – where people can nominate their own category. How about: “biggest charade.”
But here is the most telling thing I learned about comedy over the last couple of years. I wrote a blog not so long ago that basically denounced the comedy industry (not comedy itself) as just a microcosm of American capitalism run amok. I bashed bringer shows and open call lines in particular, but generally the culture of a profession that could take people’s dreams and personal work and manipulate those for one-sided financial gain. The blog was forwarded around extensively and I had many people comment on it and tell me in person that they thought it was great. The thing you need to know about comedy is this – over half the comments posted to the blog and supporting what I had wrote were left under pseudonyms or anonymous. Good thing there’s no award for courage in comedy.